By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”The Joint Task Force, code-named Operation Restore Hope, says it will hand over a Myanmar national arrested on board a vessel involved in oil bunkering off the Atlantic coast of Brass, Bayelsa State, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for prosecution.
The embattled foreigner, identified as Mr. Minzaw Tinmaungyaw, was nabbed aboard the seized vessel owned by a Greek firm, Blossom SA, allegedly loaded with 800 metric tonnes of crude oil stolen from a facility operated by Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC.
Though the arrested foreigner confirmed the illegal loading of the crude oil, he denied any involvement in the act, saying he was only a passenger on board the seized vessel.
Aside the Myanmaris who was apprehended by men of the Joint Task Force on board the vessel, known as M.T Glory, other members of the crew reportedly dived into the sea and escaped to evade arrest on sighting securitymen.
It was learnt that the seized vessel was a courier to a larger vessel with over 25 crew of Myanmar nationals on board, moored outside Nigeriaâ€™s territorial waters, waiting to receive the stolen crude oil for onward delivery to the international market.
The vessel, according to a security source, was intercepted at about midnight 31 March 2010 by men of the Joint Task Force along the Lagosgbene community of Brass in Brass local government area of the state.
A Nigerian linked with the seized vessel and his cohorts were said to have offered N2 million for the release of the suspect and the vessel, which was rebuffed.
The authorities were said to be on the trail of those involved in the attempted bribe.
The coordinator of the Joint Media Centre of the JTF, Lt. Col. Timothy Antigha, who confirmed the incident to newsmen, said the arrest has further shown the resolve of the Federal Government to put a stop to cases of illegal bunkering activities along its territorial waters.
Though he said the vessel had the capacity to load over 2,000 metric tones of crude oil, over 800 metric tones had been loaded before it was intercepted.
â€œAll we have done is to conclude our report on the arrest and it will be forwarded to the appropriate authority for further action,â€ he said.
Antigha noted that the JTF will also hand over the arrested vessel to the EFCC for investigation and prosecution of the suspects.